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Humidor Info

Why Use a Humidor?

Cigars are hygroscopic in nature. This means that they will over time dry out in a dry climate or absorb moisture in a humid one. Cigars will continue to do so until their own moisture matches that of the ambient climate around them.

A cigar with too much moisture will not burn properly. It will be difficult to draw and to keep lit. The smoke may become too dense, leaving the smoker with a sour taste and aroma. Also overly moist cigars will commonly split their wrappers and be highly susceptible to mould, mildew and/or fungus.

A dry cigar will burn too hot. Without the proper level of moisture, the combustion temperature of your cigar will be too high and the smoke will be hot and acrid. The smoke will become aggressive and you will lose many of the subtle flavors that a properly humidified cigar will provide. Dry cigars also lead to the early evaporation of their essential oils and reduce their overall flavor and aroma.

Humidors are designed to keep the ambient climate inside of them perfect for any cigar, as long as they are used correctly.


How to Use a Humidor?

Typically for the most enjoyable smoking, a cigar should contain approximately 12% -14% of its total weight in moisture. This corresponds to 60% - 70% relative humidity. Relative Humidity (RH) is a way of describing how much water vapour there is in the air, compared to how much there could be, at the same temperature. The primary criteria in the proper storage of cigars is to achieve a stable and ideal relative humidity within this 60% - 70% RH range.

The secondary, but equally important requirement is to carefully select a place for your humidor. It should definitely not be placed in direct sunlight, near a heat source and ideally in an area where the temperature is between 17 and 21 celsius, but no  higher than 25.

Accomplishing these simple things will allow your cigars to not only be stored well, but also age well resulting in cigars that will draw easily, burn steadily, and share their optimum flavor and nuances with your palate.


How to Buy a Great Humidor?

There is no such thing as a high quality, inexpensive humidor. A good humidor isn’t just a box to store your cigars in, it is also an enjoyable piece of furniture. Look for a humidor with quality workmanship throughout; tight seal, excellent corner joints/construction, skilled hinge installation, etc. A good humidor will be heavy and solid, and this is essential to prevent warping in the future. Remember a humidor endures a tremendous amount of stress. For example, in the winter when the heat runs constantly resulting in an indoor Relative Humidity of roughly 30%, yet your humidor is near 67% on the inside a tremendous strain on the wood and the joints of a humidor will occur. Lift out trays and movable dividers are a big plus when selecting a humidor, particularly if made of Spanish cedar.

In our expert opinion the most affordable option on the market is a humidor made with engineered wood and lined with Spanish cedar. All of our humidors are constructed this way,  to bring you the benefits of Spanish cedar (discussed later on) and affordable prices. We also carry high-end humidors (Adorini) that use similar construction methods, but contain much better materials and impeccable craftsmanship.

 

Seasoning Your New Humidor:

It takes time, patience and a little know-how to get a new humidor ready to hold cigars. You're trying to recreate the semi-tropical environments where most cigars are made, and you can't rush the process. Putting cigars into a dry humidor can ruin good smokes and frustrate you.

Most humidors have an interior made of untreated Spanish cedar, the preferred wood for humidifying and aging premium cigars. The wood needs to be humidified, or seasoned, before the box is ready to hold cigars. (Some humidors have varnished or finished wood interiors that don't need to be seasoned.)

Take a new sponge -- make sure it is unscented and free of soap -- and lightly dampen it with distilled water. Wipe down all the exposed wood, including any trays and dividers, and the interior lid. Do NOT wipe the corners or joints as this may cause damage and never leave any puddles or drips inside the humidor. Avoid using a paper towel or a fraying cloth; these will literally leave a paper trail on the wood. After you've wiped down the wood, squirt the sponge with more distilled water, then place it inside the humidor on a plastic bag or dish -- to avoid direct contact with the wood -- and close the lid.

Next, prepare your humidification device according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use only distilled water, as tap water contains minerals and chemicals that will destroy most humidification systems by leaving deposits that will clog the humidor element. Once the humidification element is filled, be sure to wipe it down to remove all the excess water. Rest it on a hand towel for approximately 30 minutes.

Close the humidor with its humidifying element and the damp sponge, and leave it overnight. In a day or two, refresh the humidification device and check the sponge. If it is fairly dry, add more distilled water. If it is very damp, leave it alone.

If the relative humidity is now between 65%-70%, you can safely store your cigars in your freshly seasoned humidor. Should the RH decrease after adding the cigars, it may simply mean that your cigars are lower in moisture content and are absorbing moisture from inside your humidor. Monitor your humidifier and ensure that it is supplying moisture to keep everything at your prefered RH.


Maintaining your Humidor:

Relative Humidity control is the most difficult aspect of maintaining a humidor. Keep in mind that there are three types of humidifiers:

  • Passive Humidifiers: these supply water vapour without any regulation

  • Active Humidifiers: these detect the Relative Humidity and supply moisture when needed

  • 2-Way Humidifiers: these work the same way as an active humidifier except they also have the ability to reduce Relative Humidity if it goes over a pre-programmed level

In a Passive Humidifier, add distilled water to your humidifier when the relative humidity begins to dip. After the humidor has been stabilized, this dip should occur slow and steady... 69%, 68%, 67% and so on. A suggested RH to start to add distilled water is 64%. Remember to NOT saturate the humidifier, but to only moisten it!

Only use distilled water. Tap water has chemicals and minerals that you do not want in contact with your cigars as they age. Also tap water contains organics and is prone to developing mold. Distilled water is the only readily available water that is free of both mineral and organic impurities.

Do not be anal retentive about the RH humidity. Any number between 64% and 72% is fine, truth is every cigar smokes different. Some will be best at 68%, while other less tightly rolled cigars will burn better at 72%. Some people like their cigars even drier and try to keep them closer to 60%. Ignore what everyone tells you about 70%/70F and experiment with slightly a slightly higher and lower RH until you find what you like best. Personally, we prefer 65%-67% RH as the ideal relative humidity.

Temperature control is not nearly as critical as the humidity, but is still important. Any temperature between 14 and 24 Celsius is fine. A couple of notes though, at the lower temp the aging process slows down, while at the higher temp the hatching of the dreaded tobacco beetle is a potential risk. More importantly, always keep your humidor out of the sunlight - being bathed in the sun's rays dramatically escalates the internal temperature within the box. Also never place it on a television set or near a stereo system, as any such electronic device will generate considerable heat. Totally DISREGARD any table or advice explaining that the ideal humidity for storing your cigars changes depending on the temperature. This is a myth that sadly has been published in some otherwise respectable publications. It is based on the principles of absolute moisture content and not relative humidity. 70% relative humidity is 70% relative humidity regardless of the temperature hence the term "relative."


Measuring the Relative Humidity:

A hygrometer is the best device for measuring RH inside your humidor.

One of the easiest methods of verifying the accuracy of your hygrometer is to perform a Salt Calibration Test.

The Salt Calibration Test Procedure:

Let's get the materials we need...

  • Tablespoon of Plain Table Salt (NaCl)
  • Two Ziplock-style baggies
  • Bottle Cap or other suitable small container
  • Swizzle Stick or other such item to stir with
  • Distilled Water
  • Your Hygrometer

Step 1) Place the tablespoon of salt on the bottle cap. The wide mouth ones that are used on individual serving juice or tea bottles are ideal. Slowly add distilled water to the salt while blending with the swizzle stick. You want to add just enough water to moisten the salt so that it begins to meld into a thick paste. Do not add enough water to dissolve the salt! Place the bottle cap with salt gently into the first ziplock bag and then add you hygrometer. Make certain the sensor (vent holes or slots) is exposed and free of being block by the bag. Seal the bag while capturing some air inside of it. Then place into the second bag and seal again. The double bags are needed to ensure that you really have a good seal as the test will not work if there are any leaks. Place the bag in a place that is free of direct sunlight and is of a stable temperature. Leave undisturbed for a minimum of 12 hours and preferably for 24 hours, as you will achieve the best results with a longer exposure.

Step 2) Smoke a cigar and enjoy a beverage.

Step 3) After 24 to 36 hours, check the reading on the hygrometer through the transparent resealable bag and it should read on or near 75% RH. Remember most small and inexpensive hygrometers are only accurate to within 3% so do not be surprised if it reads between 72% and 78% RH. Another reason for the misadjustment, is that analog or mechanical devices can be grossly out of calibration due to vibration or movement during shipping. It is exactly 75% RH within the confines of the bag due to the salt paste reacting with the air, and what your hygrometer reads differently is the amount of error. What to do about off-reading depends on the circumstances. If your hygrometer has an adjustment, then by all means try to tweak it to exactly 75%. You should repeat the Salt Calibration Test again after making any adjustments.

If your hygrometer doesn't have the ability to be adjusted and the reading is close, then don't worry about it. Just make a note that your hygrometer is X% off, either high or low. If the reading is grossly in error and you are unable to adjust it, then we suggest you replace it. Consider a good quality adjustable, digital hygrometer.

 

Other Humidor Details and Tips:

A tip when buying a humidor for the first time is that you should buy a humidor with a capacity where your cigars can fill 60%-80% of the available space. This will allow for additional purchases and once the humidor is seasoned, the cigars can stabilize the Relative Humidity.

Remember that a 25/50/75/100/200+ capacity humidor is typically based on corona/corona extra sized cigars. If you primarily smoke large cigars it is important to adjust these numbers as appropriate. Only purchase a humidor from a retailer and/or manufacturer that is willing to stand behind their product 100%. Ensure that they will refund your money upon demand, if they won't - Buy Elsewhere!


Spanish Cedar lining
is a must as it serves three important functions:

  • First, it acts as an additional buffering agent since wood is absorbent and regulates at 60%-70% just like your cigars.

  • Secondly, it deters tobacco beetles (Lasioderma serricorne) and other pests from traveling in between cigars since they dislike the bitter flavour of Spanish Cedar.

  • Lastly, it imparts a slightly spicy flavour to your cigars as they age, which by most smokers standards is very pleasant.


The Final Word:

Hygrometers are not an absolute necessity. "What?" you say... They are perfect for a quick glance to see that all is in order. However, you will find over time, that you will gain the experience to be able to judge the relative humidity within your humidor by simply touching and smoking your cigars. Whether be soft and spongy or hard and crackly, you will gain the ability to know what is happening with your prized cigars.

This information was sourced from many on-line sources and compiled by our Humidor Experts at Canada Humidor.